Projects are one of the most actionable things you can do to break into sports analytics. Projects show teams and organizations the quality of work that you produce and can give them an immediate reason to hire you.
In this post, I break down the types of sports analytics projects that are out there. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is get started, and this should give you a concrete idea about the destination you want to reach. From there, you can develop the relevant questions and analysis techniques.
Types of Sports Analytics Projects
- Projecting outcomes – You are trying to project how players or teams will perform by game or by season in this project type. Most of these applications are relevant for the sports gambling context. However, they can also be useful for individual sports teams. An example of this would be if you are trying to calculate what the spread should be on each basketball game this year. You could use that to potentially bet on outcomes.
- Valuing players or teams – Related to the projecting outcomes, sometimes we want to understand if a player is worth the investment in the draft or on the trade market. Trying to understand how certain attributes impact the value of a player can be instrumental to sports teams. An example would be if you were to look at physical data of running backs to determine if that had a measurable impact on how often they fumble the ball. A project like this could have a tremendous impact on how organizations draft players.
- Identifying areas of improvement – Sometimes the numbers reveal things that the coaches and players don’t see. An example of this has been the shift in value of on base percentage in baseball. Analysis can suggest that if a player takes more pitches or a pitcher changes the pitches that they throw, perhaps they can improve their performance. Similar to this, when to challenge penalties or when to call timeouts can also have interesting and actionable outcomes for teams.
- Understanding the game – Sometimes we want to understand how the game has changed. An example of this would be Beyond the Arch. Brennan clustered players based on the types of plays they are part of over time. We can see the new types of players as well as how players have changed over time. This can give the casual viewer insight into changes in the game and perhaps have an impact on how coaches use players or trade for others.
I am sure that there are other types of projects that I have overlooked, but framing yours in one of these ways can help you cut through the noise.
Any advice for someone in the process of applying for business analytics positions with a team?
I would consider doing a few projects on fan engagement in sports. There should be some decent data related to tv ratings, ticket sales, etc. out there. I would also focus on networking either through your university or through linkedin. These positions are still difficult to get, but are easier than the operations side! Thanks for the read!
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